Category Archives: children’s books

2 New Books (!!) and 5 Fun Things…

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Today is Z’s last day of first grade. I can’t believe she will be a second grader, the grade I used to teach.

It doesn’t seem like yesterday in which I packed up my crayon-filled second grade classroom and had a newborn in the sweltering June summer. It seems ages ago. To be precise 7 years ago! For me, those newborn baby days were long and slow, tiring and tedious. But to have that slow time was a gift in which I could find pockets of peace.

Once Z transformed into a running toddler and child, that was when time caught up with Z and then A and started to run too.

Ramadan for Muslims starts this Saturday. It’s nice to see my book Lailah’s Lunchbox pop up on people’s radars again and to see it displayed proudly for Ramadan.

I love seeing how creative people get with their displays. If you do use my book in a Ramadan display, please send me a picture. Sometimes while I sit on a computer cranking out words on a plain old Microsoft Word document, it can be hard to see my words as a book.

Speaking of books, I am excited to say that I should have two picture books coming out in a couple of years I believe!

Amira’s Picture Day (Holiday House) for Spring 2019

Ramadan is over and Amira can’t wait to celebrate Eid. Spotting the new moon, she celebrates because Eid is tomorrow and she gets to miss school to go to the mosque for the Eid prayer and brunch.  But then she realizes that tomorrow is Picture Day at school. How will her class remember her if she’s not in the class picture? What will Amira do?

         2. Let Me Show You The Way (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers) TBD

The main character often happily volunteers to help a fellow classmate who needs a little extra assistance in school. It is only when she gets picked on by two popular students for helping him, she decides to distance herself from the fellow classmate to fit in more with her popular classmates. Later, she feels regret for her actions, but it is too late. Now, she decides to take matters into her own hands…

I will share more about these two projects soon. A big thank you to those who helped me thus far with these stories, editing, critiquing, printing, submitting! The publishing industry is quite a prooooooooooooooocesssssssss. And a long one at that! And an additional thank you to all of you who have read Lailah’s Lunchbox and supported me. I hope you all will like these two picture books as well.

I hope for all those of you who will be celebrating Ramadan that it is a beautiful and peaceful month full of growth, renewal, and that you find time to enjoy the slow moments. Meanwhile…

Five Fun Things:

  1. a heartwarming Middle Grade book I read recently by Lisa Graff with a strong, emotional male character’s voice:

“My dad’s face, you should’ve seen it. It went from normal to chili-pepper red in seconds. He was angry. [. . .] The fire, it was all the way to the tips of my fingernails. Digging down to the bottoms of my heels.”

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2. A teacher’s blog post I liked about my book.

“Lailah’s Lunchbox is a fantastic story based on Reem Faruqi’s own life experience moving to the United States and explaining what Ramadan is to classmates and friends in Peachtree City, Georgia. This story captures many different and important social issues, including moving somewhere new and different religions. This story emphasizes the humanity of the children and their experiences and promotes understanding and empathy of others.”

3. A beautiful Ramadan Read Drummer Girl   by Hiba Masood and illustrated by Najiyah Maxfield about a spunky female character Najma and the tender relationship she and her father share during Ramadan. I love how author Hiba Masood loosely based this story on a true one of a female drummer girl. The imagery, language, and pictures are gorgeous. I am a fan of Hiba (Drama Mama)’s words and this book showcases beautiful language. I have been saving this story for Z and A to read during Ramadan so I know they will savor it this Ramadan.

“Najma held her breath. Would he be angry? Would he say she was being foolish? No woman had ever been a musaharati in her neighborhood…”

4. A fun activity to do. Envelope decorating with nail polish. It kept Z and A busy for a while…

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5. the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta will be doing a Ramadan puppet show at the Children’s Museum on June 24th for your children. Check our newsletter here for more details. (scroll to bottom!)

Have a Blessed Ramadan and Beautiful Summer!

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Book Review: A Quranic Odyssey

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Author Umm Muhemmed wrote this enlightening book, A Quranic OdysseyThe book is illustrated by Azra Momin  and is written for an adult audience. I had wanted to review this book in Ramadan, but didn’t get a chance to! Glad I get to share it with you now!

 

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This book is a great read for parents who would like to instill a love of Quran for their children. The book is split up into bite-sized-nuggets of information, short chapters in which a main character Khadija teaches Ibrahim lessons about Quran in a beautiful and engaging hands-on manner. I liked how young Ibrahim sometimes ended up teaching his parents his own unique lessons he got from the Quran.

I also liked how Ibrahim’s grandmothers are both of different faiths and cultures, but steadfast friends. Ibrahim’s paternal grandmother is an Italian Christian whereas his maternal grandmother is a Pakistani Muslim.

The story touches on Ibrahim’s challenge with having a grandmother that doesn’t share his religion, but also emphasizes the openness and acceptance and love that he has for her.

One sweet moment I liked from this story is when Ibrahim’s mother teaches him and his toddler sister Amna about Surah Quraysh, a chapter from the Quran which talks about peace and safety. At one point in the story, the family goes to a nature reserve in which they wish to spot endangered whooping cranes who are currently experiencing trouble with migration.

Ibrahim then has this idea, “I’m going to recite Surah Quraysh. I think it will be just the right solution to bring the whooping cranes to safety. Allah will keep them safe in the winter and the summer when they’re migrating just as He explains. So reciting Surah Quraysh will help them.”   Following his statement, Khadija writes, “Abdurrahman and I look at each other and share a rare moment of profound parenting joy.”

If you have little children, this is an educational and inspiring read to get started in helping your children not only memorize Quran surahs but learn and apply little lessons from them.

The book was sent to me by Umm Muhemmed for a review and is available here! Umm Muhemmed blogs and reviews lots of good books here and reviewed my story Lailah’s Lunchbox here!

 

Eggs to Eggs, Smiles to Smiles…

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This summer I haven’t strung my words together just so. Rather than write, I peruse blogs of mothers who have triple the number of children I have, whose homes are built on meadowy farm lands, and who collect warm eggs from hens.

I click and browse, browse and scroll and admire and bask in the warmth of their images, the smiles of their children, and their golden light at sunset.

I eventually exit out of the window, put down the screen, drive to the grocery store, and buy cold eggs from Kroger.

I do the grocery shopping mostly lighthearted because it is summer and I have nowhere to rush. Smiles emerge from my children when they choose the trolley with the plastic pink car or if they get a free balloon at the counter. Eggs to eggs. Smiles to smiles.

This summer has been good because it has been slow and it has been slow because it has been good. I love the feeling of waking up in the morning lazily not having to rush somewhere, not having to be somewhere at 8 am, not have to be on-the-go is deliciously free.

I love not having to bark back-to-school orders  Hurry Up, Brush Your Teeth, Go sit in the car, orders peppered with the occasional questions Do you have your book bag? Where are your shoes?

 

I would love to soak up the sun this last week before school starts, but Atlanta’s weather promises rain everyday. Not to worry. Rain promises blessings. Blessings promise good.

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pockets of rain on the left and right!

I only hope that when the school year begins that I can still create space and patience and time to do the things that sometimes only the season of summer promises. Late nights for children with cup fulls of Ovaltine, later nights for their parents and still Ovaltine. Visits to an aunt’s home with lake swims and hammock rests. Swim lessons for the girls in which a big sister comforts a small sister and her fear of water. This is Summer.

This is what Summer has promised us so far…

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Flower shopping at the farmer’s market

 

IMG_6768Under-the-Apple-Tree Reads with Cousins

IMG_6775Apple Trees and Golden Sunsets

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IMG_6756Hammock Snuggles and Comfort Children Stories!

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Me on the rowboat!

IMG_6849Pure Gold

IMG_6857View from Boat

IMG_6848A flustered ant on the boat!

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Grassy Toes
IMG_6527The Quest for the Perfect Lily Pad

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Surprise Popsicles from my aunt

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Summer Food

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5 year olds transformed into Helfpul Bag Pulling 6 year olds

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Comforting Hugs given to little sisters scared of the water!

Hoping that all the seasons to come will be savored as much as this one and that we each savor our time wisely!

“Take benefit of five before five: Your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before you are preoccupied, and your life before your death” – Prophet Muhammad

12 Beautiful Things

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12 Beautiful Things I’ve Enjoyed:

  1. Video: Japanese high schoolers seeing a chick hatch outside its egg. Mind boggling!

  2. Do you dream of having kids one day? Touching article

  3. Ramadan series I’ve been enjoying – videos, or daily lectures here.

  4. Two brand new Ramadan picture books I want to check out: Drummer Girl and Owl & Cat: Ramadan Is…

  5. They’ve left me. Is this what an empty nest feels like?

  6. Can’t wait to read this memoir of Muhammad Ali (already put it on hold at my library!)

  7. Beautiful middle grade novel I loved

  8. Love this Blog lately for everything

  9. Heartwarming children’s book classic.

  10. never knew he had so many beautiful quotes; hence why I’m checking out #6 – article: 12 Times Muhammad Ali Showed Us The Incredible Power Of His Faith

  11. This hair brush helped me attempt to get Z to school on time

  12. I like this nail polish color in Sea Shell

“The Green Bicycle” Book Review!

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Recently I got the chance to ride my bicycle again after quite some time, meaning many months. I used to bike all the time when I was younger. It’s something I really want to pick up again and not let it go again!

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The feeling of biking is exhilarating and freeing.

A Penguin representative reached out to me asking if I’d review a book The Green Bicycle. The story features a bold eleven year old, Wadjda, who lives in Saudi Arabia and her wish is to ride a bike. The issue is that girls don’t ride bikes where she lives. I couldn’t wait to read the story and glad I got the chance to read it and review it!

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Amazon Summary: click here for look inside!

Spunky eleven-year-old Wadjda lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with her parents. She desperately wants a bicycle so that she can race her friend Abdullah, even though it is considered improper for girls to ride bikes. Wadjda earns money for her dream bike by selling homemade bracelets and mixtapes of banned music to her classmates. But after she’s caught, she’s forced to turn over a new leaf (sort of), or risk expulsion from school. Still, Wadjda keeps scheming, and with the bicycle so closely in her sights, she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

Set against the shifting social attitudes of the Middle East, The Green Bicycle explores gender roles, conformity, and the importance of family, all with wit and irresistible heart.

I was curious to read this book as I grew up in Abu Dhabi and wanted to see how her experience in Saudi Arabia was different from mine. The book is fictional, but the experiences reflect he author Haifaa Al Mansour’s school experiences.

Wadjda deals with challenges from being in an overly strict school where the girls are forced to memorize chants and patriotic songs. Wadjda struggles with the meaningless and mundane activities. When a Quran competition’s first prize is a big amount of money that can pay for a bicycle, Wadjda decides that she will win the competition so that she can buy a green bicycle that she has set her eyes on. Her friend Abdullah secretly teaches her to ride his bicycle and the feeling Wadjda experiences racing on his bike is pure joy.

In Abu Dhabi, I leraned to ride a bike and would ride around my house in a small parking lot so was glad to have that opportunity – something I took for granted. I felt for Wadjda who felt limited.

Furthermore, Wadjda deals with some hard issues such as washing her father remarry another wife when he is still married to his mother. Her heart breaks when she witnesses her mother’s sorrow.  The mother and daughter’s connection is rekindled and although initially, her mother does not feel it is proper for Wadjda to ride a bike, at the end her mother supports her daughter and allows her ride it as she wishes. I don’t want to say too much about the exciting ending in case you get a chance to read it!

The author Haifaa Al Mansour wrote an author note that shed light on her experiences as a child.  She said the main character is based on a lot of girls she grew up with. She writes the story isn’t necessarily autobiographical but is based on the place she came from. She experienced a lot of the same frustrations that Wadjda did in public school. I thought it was fun that author Haifaa had a green bike as a child and when she tagged along with her father to buy bikes for her two brothers, she spotted a green bike and wanted it. The seller was upset that she wanted the bicycle, but her father insisted upon getting it. Haifaa rode her bike in circles around her backyard, not outside her home, but still found pleasure in biking. That story touched me!

My grandmother used to bike to university in a sari many years ago in India. I always loved knowing how independent she was. I am Muslim and feel comfort in my religion knowing I have the right to go places, the right to ride a bicycle. Unfortunately, there are a few cultures that look down upon letting girls ride a bicycle. That disappoints me and I hope each girl around the world has this right! I also hope each student gets blessed with wonderful teachers. Ms. Hussa (Wadjda’s teacher) reminded me of Ms. Trunchbull from Roald Dahl’s Matilda, an unsavory character!

One favorite quote from the story:

The next morning, Wadjda swung herself up onto her new green bicycle and set out through the neighborhood. Her feet moved forward. She pedaled at her own speed, on her own terms. For the first time in her life, Wadjda felt the freedom of pure, unchecked movement, and knew the sensation of using her own power to whisk herself through the city. The warm wind slipped under her loose veil and blew her hair back as she swerved down streets and alleys, bumped on and off sidewalks.

I’ll never let go of this feeling, she thought, and pedaled harder.

This book was based on the award-wining film Wadjda and I can’t wait to watch the film next!

9 Non-Goals

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Last year, I was inspired by blogger Erin Loechner, who instead of writing resolutions wrote non-goals in 2015 and 2016. Gentle ways in which you reflect back on your year and think, what did I do well in? Of course there are always things you could do better, aren’t there always?

What are the things that you slowly thrived in?

Here’s Erin’s last year quote:

“You know the drill by now, it’s non-goal time. In a month where we’re encouraged to pick apart bits of ourselves – more of this, less of that – sometimes it’s just refreshing to take a step back and see the landscape for what it is. To swim in the grace we’ve been given; leap in the forgiveness we’re granted. To just keep walking, one foot then another, without searching for a new route that might offer a quicker arrival to a destination we were never intended to seek.” – Erin Loechner

Here are my 2015 Non-Goals!

Below are my 2016 Non-Goals!

  1. You Read Lots of Books
    Reading for me is a must. When I read, I get a mini escape from my world. I was just reading Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and I loved seeing how her point of view. Books help you decompress, and when you need a bit of silence, and escape from the hubbub of your world, a book is one way. I don’t read every single book word-for-word if I don’t want to. I read picture books, chapter books, books for people my age with hard covers and squished up words. I have books on my dining table, books in the cabinets, books on the coffee table, books in baskets, books everywhere. I leave a few books on my dining table for me to browse through while I eat a snack now and then, and love the drawing in of words.

Also, how amazing is a library? A place where you can go and leave with a bag of books for free. Yes, to be returned, but then you get more in exchange!

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2. You Were a Little More Social

Last year, I was happy to be a little less social. I was home bound for some time when I had a health issue. I found that I had to flourish at home. Being a homebody, I was fine. However, I found that when I am well and able, being social can be good. People get happy to see you. You get happy to see them.

 

3. You Are Trying to Go on Nature Adventures

This year I actually went apple picking, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I got to go the Atlantic Ocean as well as the mountains, so it is nice to be able to reflect on the natural world around me.

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4. You Went to Coffee Shops

The wifi stopped working so ‘A’ and I went to a coffee shop. And then another. I don’t drink coffee (I don’t like the bitter taste of it), so we enjoyed our hot chocolates. I do love the smell of coffee though! I may try to go again to get actual work done. We’ll see!

5. You are Trying to Make your Home a Haven

I am trying to declutter. Trying to make the home even cozier and make peace with the things I need, the needs of 2 little ones, and the peace of the inevitable mess.

6. You Had to Promote Your Book which Meant Talking to People and Being Out There!

When you are always out everyday as a teacher, and all of a sudden become more-at-home as a mother, it is a little odd to suddenly be out more than what you’re used to. To board a plane and to meet eager minds at libraries. To receive hugs from eager-reading-children is rewarding!

 

7. To Not Force It

This year I just didn’t feel like crocheting a lot. I didn’t feel like blogging as much (had other writing tasks to focus on). Different demands took my time. I didn’t like the guilty lingering feeling I had and am trying to make peace with it. Making peace with new hobbies or lack of hobbies are good.

8. To Keep Trying

I’m itching for another book to author and am trying my hand again at writing. I am happy that I keep trying especially when giving up is so easy in the uncertain world of publishing. I also was really excited when Lailah’s Lunchbox landed on the 2016 ALA Notable Books so praying for more notable books!

9. To Appreciate Health

To know that when I am healthy to appreciate it.

When health fails, as it can do to anyone at any time anywhere to take it in stride, to turn to God, and pray your heart out.

To Appreciate health with a capital A when it returns.

 

 

And things I want to do this year and remind myself of and mini-goals:

  1. A nap is a gift. A nap is a gift. A nap is a gift.
  2. I want to do a proper cartwheel.
  3. I want to write beautiful stories. Bonus: Get Them Published!
  4. I want to enjoy cooking more. I love making playdough or baking cookies, but I want to view cooking less as a chore and see it more as a joy.

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    playdough!

  5. I want to be better about driving places that are further from me or when Atlanta traffic strikes, but understand if I don’t feel fine with going somewhere or doing something, that it is totally fine to opt out to regain myself to go out another time.
  6. I want to continue to be okay with children mess around me, to join in it as necessary, and to clean, clean, clean if I ever feel the need.
  7.  Like a spider spins a safe cocoon of a web around itself, I want to spin a web of ease, blessings, peace, health and all the good stuff around me. And with prayer and persistence, anything is possible, right?
  8. I want to frame my children’s art work and post it more in my home.
  9. I want to give away many more things that I do not need.
  10. I want to have weekends that are slow and lazy and sunshine or clouds and be at peace.
  11. I want lots of nice, white daylight streaming through windows.
  12. I want to understand the Quran meaning word for word.
  13. I want to give time to myself, to my family, to my work, to my religion.
  14. I want to be the best that I can be and appreciate all that I am and all that I ever will be. That sounds nice, not sure where I got that from?
  15. I want to eat less raw cookie dough from my freezer
  16. I want to be a pro at stretches
  17. I want to meet deadlines I create for me
  18. I want to be 5 minutes early for things
  19. I want to write mostly everyday
  20. I want to look at the sky everyday!

ALA’s Notable Children’s Books – 2016

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I’m still learning the ways of the publishing world since I’m a first-time author. I always get a thrill of excitement when I learn that someone likes my book or if it’s on a book list for something good.

I got an email from the Tilbury House publisher saying that we were on the list of titles to discuss at the ALA (American Library Association) midwinter meeting in Boston last weekend which was exciting since the ALA is the official go-to site for librarians and educators. And then later today, Lea Lyon, my illustrator wrote this:

‘The official list of 2016 ALA Notable Books has been posted and “Lailah’s Lunchbox,” made the cut. It is listed under “Middle Readers” and we are very pleased and honored. (The previous list was the discussion list for the ALA MidWinter Conference. now it is official and real.) Thanks to all of you who congratulated me. Love you all.

And thank the wonderful publisher Tilbury House for continuing to publish such worthy, socially conscious books for children. When I was hired to illustrate my first book with them, “Say Something,” by Peggy Moss, which has sold over 70,000 copies, they said “We’re very small, only publish a few books per year, but they tend to win awards.” And the four books I have created with them certainly have.’ – Lea Lyon

 

The ALA site was under construction, but when I went back later on today, Lailah’s Lunchbox is there on the ALA Notable list for Middle Readers, ages 8-10 year olds. It is great for my story to be among such great other ones and I can’t wait to check out the list in more detail and to start placing the other notable books on hold. According to the site:

 

Each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the best of the best in children’s books. According to the Notables Criteria, “notable” is defined as: Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children’s books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children’s interests in exemplary ways.

 

And Tilbury House was excited too!

tilbury ala2I’m so glad the book is being enjoyed! It’s here and in the libraries and more! Another fun thing is the book’s supporting character is a librarian. The librarians tend to enjoy that part. I hope the librarians continue to spread the good word about the story to their fellow libraries and schools. Yay for being notable! Hoping for many more notable books!

Thank you to you all for your support!